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Will robots replace Shakespeares and Tagores?

  • Published at 09:11 pm May 18th, 2018
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'With the advance of Internet-based technologies, do we see a lack of interest among people about books and works of literature?'

Literature doesn’t seem a priority to a world full of people who are racing to earn an income for themselves as well as for their families. There’s hardly anyone around us who would want their children to become just writers. Rather, they would like their children to be CEOs or financial professionals who can earn a proper income and live comfortably. This is the psyche of people across the world.

In an atmosphere overloaded with both frightening and exciting information, we perhaps don’t know what kind of information and how much information to consume. Literature such as novels, poems, dramas and works of fiction may not be termed as information that we require for earning a good income, but literature works as the all-encompassing air that we breathe. Literature is the medium through which we see ourselves and know ourselves. It is indeed a mirror that keeps us informed about ourselves.

If knowing oneself is important for us, we will perhaps continue to value literature even fifty years from now. Works of Tagore, Shakespeare, Hemingway and Marquez will still appeal to our senses if we don’t forget how littérateurs and their works have helped civilizations for thousands of years by shaping the psyche of the society. Tagore, Bangkim, Nazrul and many others have done to Bengali society what Shakespeare and Chaucer had done for the English. Likewise, since the ancient Greek and Roman times, literature had always played a social role that no other aspect of human life could.

However, with the advance of Internet-based technologies, do we see a lack of interest among people about books and works of literature? A random survey would certainly provide us the impression that in the days of fast-paced busy schedules, we have little time to delve into a work of fiction. We would rather meaninglessly scroll through social media sites than read a good book. That, perhaps, is the reason why micro-fictions have been invented. Since people don’t have time to read books, they are offered read-as-you-go content.

Well, what will happen to works of literature fifty years from now? Firstly, will there be any paper books? Or will we publish only digital ones? Will people still feel interested in works of fiction in a world that will be overtaken by the Internet of things and robotics? Or shall we command a robot to tell us the story that might have been inside a book to read? I have a strong feeling that we will not read anymore in that era; rather we will programme our robot-assistants to read them out to us.

With the advent of artificial intelligence, we’re anticipating that robots will one day be able to think. Will that mean an end of human authors in that era? Will robots with artificial intelligence become new Shakespeares and Tagores? This is one question that keep haunting me when I think what would happen to what we call ‘literature’. 

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist